Doris Gaines of Port Charlotte, Fla. called me to let me know she had a Christmas story taken from the memoirs of her late brother, Petty Officer First Class Gordon McDaniel. He served aboard the submarine USS Threadfin during World War II.
After the war, while serving on another sub, “… I knew we would be on patrol off Russian Siberia on Christmas Day. Before we left port in Yokosuka, Japan, I had a tailor make up small Christmas stockings for all the men in my torpedo room. Each stocking had the name of one of my men. I also bought Christmas tree lights at the Navy Exchange.
“On Christmas Eve I made sure I had the midnight to 4 a.m. watch. After everyone was sacked out and I was alone in the compartment, I put up the Christmas lights all around the torpedo tubes and on a line across the front. I hung the little stockings. I filled them with cigarettes, toothpaste, candy bars and such.
“About 4 a.m. I turned on all the lights in the compartment and started shaking the bunks crying, ‘Hit the deck, we have work to do. All of you, out of them sacks!’
“Some of them said, ‘Oh, Mac, not on Christmas Day!’ I replied, ‘I dozed off for a minute and some little old fat man in a red suit really messed up this room. We got to clean it up.’
“They looked down the room at the torpedo tubes and the Christmas tree lights and the little red and green stockings. They leaped out of their bunks. Some were crying.
“You must remember these were very young men —18 to 20. For some this was their first Christmas away from home.
“Just to see their expressions was one of the best Christmas presents I ever received.”
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Friday, Dec. 20, 2002 and is republished with permission.
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